Pets

Life on the hoof

Few places in Sacramento County have traffic signals designed especially for horseback riders.

However, a signal being installed on an Orangevale country road will feature a push button elevated for equestrians to reach it.

"What's unique about Orangevale is that you don't see a horse walking down the street in other parts of the county," resident Sharon Murphy said while traveling a trail with her thoroughbred, Echo, at Orangevale Community Park.

Some who want to protect Orangevale's status as a semi-rural community had opposed the signal near the park at Oak and Filbert avenues. Residents said they want to maintain the country road atmosphere and efforts are under way for a multiuse trail on Oak Avenue to serve equestrians, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Despite the controversy over the future of Orangevale's roads, most residents would agree that horseback riding is a popular form of recreation in the area.

Many area horse owners, such as Murphy, say horseback riding allows them to relieve stress, escape urban life and nurture a special bond with their animal.

They often visit equestrian trails along the American River Parkway and Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. The parkway - known for its serene environment - features a 23-mile horse trail parallel to a bicycle trail. Shorter trails, about a mile long, also are near the river at Sailor Bar and Sacramento Bar in Fair Oaks.

Folsom Lake State Recreation Area includes about 30 miles of equestrian trails stretching from the Nimbus Fish Hatchery at Highway 50 and Hazel Avenue to Cardiac Hill, northeast of Folsom Lake at the American River.

"Riding gives you a sense of well-being," Murphy said.

Those who choose to rent horses by the hour and tour less-known trails can visit places such as Shadow Glen Riding Stables in Fair Oaks.

"On the weekends, there might be up to 200 people here," Shadow Glen owner Ken Houston said, adding that visitors range from families to young girls and women who seem to be fascinated with horses.

"One time, an 80-year-old man from Chicago said it was his childhood dream to ride a horse, although he had never seen one (in person) before," Houston said.

From April to October, Shadow Glen provides guided tours of trails, including those once used by Pony Express riders. Rides at moonlight and sunset are available, but reservations are required.

Rides cost $30 an hour and an additional $10 an hour for a private guide. Shadow Glen is one of the few stables to provide guided tours of trails, along with private riding lessons and a summer horse camp for children ages 8 to 16.

Houston said Gibson Ranch Park Equestrian Services in Elverta is the nearest stable to provide similar activities.

The 10,000-acre Shadow Glen also provides boarding for about 50 horses. Those who own the horses may not have room to keep them on their property or want to keep their animals closer to the trails.

Elaine Reller of Orangevale has kept her horse, Turbo, at Shadow Glen for three years.

"His name is Turbo, but he doesn't go fast," Reller said as she groomed the 9-year-old appaloosa during a recent visit to Shadow Glen. Reller prefers to ride in the morning and on weekdays, when parks are less crowded. Bicyclists who travel the American River Parkway can spook a horse, she said.

A group of Orangevale residents four years ago recognized the need for a trail where equestrians, pedestrians and bicyclists can travel in harmony. They proposed a multiuse trail that would stretch 2.1 miles to connect an equestrian pathway at Orangevale Community Park at Oak and Filbert avenues to the Dry Creek Parkway trail at the Placer County line at Santa Juanita Avenue.

The trail was proposed as an alternative for a long-range county plan that would convert Oak Avenue into a six-lane thoroughfare.

Manie Meraz, Orangevale Recreation and Park District director, said widening the road would go against Orangevale's history as an agricultural community - and as home to goats, pigs, geese and horses galore.

"Horses are the flavor of Orangevale," Meraz said.

The proposed Oak Avenue trail system also would encourage use of alternate transportation, help address traffic safety, congestion problems and air quality, Meraz said.

Meraz participated on a citizens committee to develop the Oak Avenue trail proposal. Preliminary plans for the trail were approved last month as a "high priority" by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, he said.

Meraz - who also serves on SACOG's alternate transportation modes committee - said the Oak Avenue project is eligible for funding under SACOG's Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding Program.

Another sign that points to Orangevale as a horse community is a plan to build a modern library that would include stalls for horses, he said. The stalls would allow patrons to ride their horse to the library instead of driving.

The proposed library was denied state funding due to competing proposals from other area libraries. However, Orangevale may get a second chance in June 2006, when voters will consider a $600 million state bond issue for libraries.

MOUNT UP

Horseback riding remains a popular form of recreation in the Sacramento area. Here are some of the many riding clubs, organizations and places to enjoy and learn about the activity.

CLUBS/ORGANIZATIONS

* Twin Lakes Riding Club, Orangevale, (916) 991-4045.

* Morgan Pleasure Horse Society, Placerville, (530) 622-8622. Web site: morganpleasurehorse.com.

* Silver Spurs Riding & Hiking Club, Auburn Lake Trails, Cool. Web site: auburnlaketrails.org.

* Sacramento Valley Morgan Horse Club, Sacramento, (530) 432-5856. Web site: svmhc.com.

* Loomis Basin Horsemen's Association, Loomis, (916) 652-5204. Web site: garlic.com/~lbha.

* The United States Pony Clubs, several in the Sacramento region. Web site: ponyclub.org.

* El Dorado Equestrian Trails Foundation, Georgetown, (530) 295-8085. Web site: edetf.com.

TRAINING, BOARDING AND STABLES

* Shadow Glen Riding Stables, 4854 Main Ave., Fair Oaks, (916) 989-1826 . Guided tours available.

* Five Oak Farms, 6905 Filbert Ave., Orangevale, (916) 988-7604.

* Hillside Training Stables, 9065 Oak Ave., Orangevale, (916) 987-1667.


HAVING FUN

Today's "Playtime" story is part of an occasional series focusing on how people fulfill their passion for recreation. Do you have a sport, activity or other interest that fits under the heading of "Playtime" that you'd like to see covered in The Bee? Contact us at Folsom@sacbee.com, by fax at (916) 985-8473 or by mail at 1835 Prairie City Road, Suite 500, Folsom, CA 95630.

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